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Spreading Joy Through Laughter; Yoga Class Makes You ‘Fake It, ‘Till You Make It’

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Cindy Brown is a psychotherapist from Westford who understands the power of laughter — so much so that she has spent the last six years offering a Laughter Yoga class for free once a week in Westford’s town center.

Brown leads a class of adults through a series of exercises designed to fool the brain into believing the laughter is real.

“Laughter is good for anxiety, depression, grief…” Brown told the 11 participants who dropped in on the evening of Dec. 28.

“Laughter Yoga is a combination of deep breathing exercises from yoga and laughter exercises, which oxygenates our body and brain, makes us feel more healthy and energetic,” according to the LaughterYoga.org website.

The concept was founded by Madan Kataria, a medical doctor from Mumbai, India, who, according to published reports, did research on the effects of laughter. Among the key influencers was the famous book by Norman Cousins, “Anatomy of an Illness,” published in 1979.

Cousins’ book chronicled how he engaged in belly laughter everyday by watching Marx Brothers movies to cure himself of a serious illness. The diagnosis was ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that effects the joints in the spine. Cousins lived until age 75 when he died in 1990 of cardiac arrest.

Kataria started a laughter club — a concept that has spread all over the globe — in the mid 1990s. Among his disciples is Brown who is committed to leading the Westford group every Wednesday from 7 to 9 p.m. at the First Parish Church United, 48 Main St.

During the last 20 minutes of the class, participants lay laughing in a circle on blankets on their backs with with heads toward each other. The 20-minute segment proved that “fake it ’till you make it” carries truth. By the end of the class, participants said their laughter was real.

They left wearing smiles.

Follow Joyce Pellino Crane on Twitter @joypellinocrane.